Is there something about playing Dracula that makes one a total badass?

I knew that Christopher Lee was a tough and scary dude, but Bela Lugosi? That old guy with the accent who was in Plan 9 From Outer Space? I did not expect this, but man, I’ve got to admire him now.

He fought in WWI, he was a Communist leader and union organizer, he was antifa.

By World War II, Hungarian dictator Miklos Horthy allied with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In opposition, Lugosi helped form the Hungarian-American Council for Democracy, calling for “Nazism to be wiped out everywhere.”

As a member of American-Hungarian Relief Inc., Lugosi was a keynote speaker at an Aug. 28, 1944, rally in Los Angeles. He demanded Washington rescue Hungarian Jewish refugees, pressure Horthy’s Nazi-puppet regime and easing immigration restrictions.

Dr. Rafael Medoff and J. David Spurlock wrote, “He may have portrayed savage villains on the silver screen, but in real life Béla Lugosi raised his voice in protest against the savage persecution of the Jews in his native Hungary.” (Jewish Ledger, Jan. 3, 2011)

Damn. Respect.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Whoa! We all heard about the sad tail-end of Bela’s life since he came to the States (i.e. type-casting, heroin addiction, and Ed Wood), but I didn’t know any of that!

    Respect indeed.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    In [Mark of the Vampire] he played a parody of himself.
    [Plan 9…] was essentially posthumous, The role was considerably reduced in the movie due to his medical issues not letting him film as much as Wood wanted.

  3. consciousness razor says

    Frank Langella, Gary Oldman: yes
    Leslie Nielsen, Denholm Elliott: sure, okay
    Gerard Butler, Luke Evans: uhhhh … benefit of the doubt?
    Lots others I’ve never heard of: no idea

  4. consciousness razor says

    Gah, “lots of others”….

    Maybe if I had played Dracula, my eyesight wouldn’t be shit. Probably too late for that.

  5. PaulBC says

    Bela Lugosi was a badass and Martin Landau is the badass’s badass for playing the guy who played Dracula in Ed Wood.

    That said, I am pretty sure stuffing some plastic fangs in my mouth would not turn me into a badass. I suspect there is an invalid assumption of cause and effect going on here.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Max Schreck and Willem Dafoe.

    Great American Satan @4: Oldman is a great actor, but also a libertarian who bemoaned the fact that he can’t call Nancy Pelosi a fucking useless c*nt. You know, just like I’m not allowed to call Oldman a brainless racist misogynistic douchebag.

  7. mnb0 says

    I know you Americans love your simple good guy with the white hat vs. bad guy with the black hat stereotype, but things are a bit more complicated when it comes to Horthy. He managed to resist transporting Hungarian jews to the death camps up to March 19th 1944, when the nazis invaded. If you look it up you will notice that D-Day had not happened yet and that the Red Army was still fighting on Soviet soil. So it was not like Hungary could expect much help from the Allies, let alone the western ones.
    As for communism, remember 1956. Perhaps it’s for the best that Lugosi did not live long enough to witness the Soviet invasion. Perhaps even better to remember 1919, when Bela Kun founded the Hungarian Soviet Republic and was responsible for the Red Terror. From Wilipedia:

    “The Lenin Boys, as well as other similar groups and agitators, killed and terrorised many people (e.g. armed with hand grenades and using their rifles’ butts they disbanded religious ceremonies). They executed victims without trial.”

  8. davidc1 says

    From the piece about Christopher Lee
    “. When the British officially joined the war, ”
    What is that suppose to mean? Russia didn’t attack Finland until after GB and France declared war against Germany .

    @9 There was a bit in todays Guardian about all the former members of the International Brigade who fought in Spain .
    It turns out that a lot of the Eastern Europeans ended up in the govts of the Warsaw Pact countries after WW2 .
    One even ran the East German STASI , Erich Mielke .

  9. bigkitty says

    Lugosi was of course iconically awesome as Dracula – but to get a real feel for him as an actor, I highly recommend his 1934 film “The Black Cat,” with Boris Karloff co-starring (!!!)

    In “Black Cat,” Lugosi gives a bravura performance as a kind, gentle, but also vengeful and tormented psychiatrist, who befriends an out-of-their-element pair of American newlyweds who find their unfortunate way to the Karloff character’s scary Central European modernistic mansion. But he is ultimately driven to horrific violence when he learns the dreadful fate of his long-lost wife and daughter (at the hands of Karloff’s evil character). This film is the best evidence, IMHO, of the talent he is said to have evidenced as a Shakespearian stage actor in his native Hungary. His facial expressions are extreme enough to be melodramatic on film, but they would obviously be just right, gripping and moving, on stage. Unfortunately, his huge success as “Dracula” in 1931 got him stereotyped for horror roles, and he never managed to break out into a wider dramatic range.

    I’ve always thought he was a fantastic artist, but knowing what a brave, fine human being he was makes me admire him so much, much more.

  10. hemidactylus says

    Not sure what to think of Rupert Penry-Jones aside from maybe being one of those BBC hatchling inhouse actors, but after his awesome role as MI-6 guy in Spooks I recall him playing the greatest badass vampire role of all time in the greatest vampire storyline of all time. After that whiny angst emo glow in the sun Twilight crap, vampires needed a Nosferatu reset and got it in spades:

  11. PaulBC says

    @13 It’s a pretty extensive list to include

    20. Rudolf Martin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000)

    I didn’t keep going find out if they managed to at least mention “A Polish Vampire in Burbank” which I admit is not really Dracula.

  12. zaledalen says

    Interesting list of the people Christopher Lee knew and met. Strangely, it didn’t include the fact that he met me. He was an amazing gentleman to work with, a true professional. Our first day on set, he sat down on a chair that the set department had provided, an antique with loose and squeaky joinery. “Oh my,” I remember him saying. “I must be careful of this or the sound man will get very upset.” Since I was the sound man, I could have cried. An actor who was actually aware of the sound. Unbelievable.
    After the production, I bought his wardrobe and wore his suit for several years.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    May I enter an anime person as favv Dracula? Alucard in:
    -Hellsing Ultimate
    -and (above all else) the fan-based parody Hellsing Ultimate Abridged.
    Alucard: (confronts a killer sent by the Vatican) “Hmm…it smells like hypocricy in here… Look! It is the catholic church. What are you doing here, the nearest elemementary school is ten miles away!”

  14. PaulBC says

    Lee’s performance as Flay in the adaptation of Gormenghast was interesting. I reread it after watching and I think he didn’t capture the full depth of the character, but it’s a pretty tough one to translate from page to screen.

  15. PaulBC says


    After the production, I bought his wardrobe and wore his suit for several years.

    Sounds like the premise for a stalker movie, but I assume you got a good deal or something.

  16. PaulBC says

    @22 I have worked with a few Romanians who could probably do a plausible Dracula accent without working too hard. (Or course even a Russian accent would probably do in a pinch.)

    Funny the Gabor sisters never got in on the action.

  17. bigkitty says

    @abbycadabra – actually, Transylvania is a trilingual region, in which Romanian, Hungarian and German are all spoken. So any of those three accents could be authentic.

  18. wanderingelf says

    It’s fun how Bela Lugosi made everyone think that Transylvanian (Romanian) accents sound like Hungarian.

    I see bigkitty beat me to it, but a Hungarian accent is also Transylvanian. Transylvania became part of Romania after WWI, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed. Prior to WWI, it was, at various times in its history, part of Hungary, an independent principality, part of the Ottoman Empire, etc. While Romanian probably the most prevalent language there today, most of the ruling class back in the day were Hungarian, so that is probably the most appropriate accent for a Transylvanian nobleman who is a few hundred years old. (For the record, my great-grandfather was from Transylvania, and his native language was German, since he was part of the German-speaking minority known as Transylvanian Saxons)